In the six-plus years I’ve been editing Slate, much has changed. Our publication schedule has gone from weekly to daily to more or less constant. We now pay as much attention to culture and lifestyle as to news and politics. We’ve made video, slide shows, and podcasting central parts of the magazine. We left Microsoft and Seattle for the Washington Post Co. and New York. Our audience has grown from 2.3 million to 6.5 million monthly users (according to Media Metrix). And we’ve become something we always intended to be—a good and growing business.
What hasn’t changed is our fundamental approach to journalism. Slate is still very much the magazine Michael Kinsley founded in 1996—experimental, explanatory, and conducive to a continuous chuckle while being read. Mike taught us many things in his years here, but among the most important were to challenge assumptions of every kind, to be unafraid of embarrassing failure, and to regard self-seriousness as a disfiguring disease. Slate writers approach the world from a variety of perspectives, but all aspire, I think, to a Kinsleyan logical rigor, open-mindedness, and knack for writing entertainingly on the subjects we care about.
Another example Mike set was not to linger too long in the editor’s chair. Running a magazine is a journalistic assignment, and part of the fun of being a journalist is that you get to change jobs every so often. Though there’s no stated term limit, four or five years should be plenty of time to put your stamp on a publication. When you find that you’re no longer making it new every day, it’s time for fresh energy and vision.
When that moment came for me, choosing David Plotz as my replacement was an easy decision. David has been here since Slate began, serving as the first writer of our “Assessment” column, lead political writer, and Washington bureau chief. Along the way he has devised some of Slate’s most successful experiments in Web journalism, including the brilliant “Seed” series, which became his 2005 book The Genius Factory, and “Blogging the Bible,” which he has also turned into a book scheduled for publication next year. For the past five years, I’ve been lucky enough to have David as my deputy. He’s a brilliant journalist who has the respect and affection of everyone at Slate.
I will continue to look over David’s shoulder without, I hope, breathing down his neck.
In the past year, I’ve been drawn more and more into projects that expand upon what we’ve built at Slate. Just under a year ago, we started Slate V, a daily video site. In January, I helped launch The Root, under the editorial direction of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Lynette Clemetson. Most recently, I’ve been spending time planning The Big Money, a new business site scheduled to go live in September.
My new task at the Washington Post Co. is to consolidate and expand this portfolio of Web sites under the heading of the Slate Group (press release here). Slate Publisher John Alderman and I are planning to develop an even larger family of Internet magazines. The Slate Group intends to function as an Internet start-up within the framework of an established media company. I think Slate’s editorial staff understands the intersection of journalism and technology better than any other. John and I want to harness that collective intelligence to create new destinations on the Web. We also hope to test new business models to support high-quality journalism on the Web.
Being editor of Slate is the best job I’ve ever had, because of the freedom and support given to me by Don Graham and the Post Co., and because of the opportunity to work with colleagues I admire and adore. I’m relieved that stepping down won’t mean saying goodbye to them. I fully expect that under David’s direction, they will make Slate an even better magazine in the years ahead.